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This theory held that the past was the key to the future and that processes that formed the layers were the very slow processes that we see forming layers at the bottom of the ocean today. Until Lyell successfully convinced scientists that uniformitarianism was the correct theory, it was believed that the worldwide flood and other catastrophic events were primarily responsible for the formation of the geologic layers and that they didn’t represent long ages.
There's no absolute age-dating method that works from orbit, and although scientists are working on age-dating instruments small enough to fly on a lander (I'm looking at you, Barbara Cohen), nothing has launched yet. Relative age dating has given us the names we use for the major and minor geologic time periods we use to split up the history of Earth and all the other planets.When you talk about the Precambrian, Paleozoic, Mesozoic, and Cenozoic on Earth, or the Noachian, Hesperian, and Amazonian for Mars, these are all relative ages.Relative-age time periods are what make up the Geologic Time Scale.Paleontologists have examined layered sequences of fossil-bearing rocks all over the world, and noted where in those sequences certain fossils appear and disappear.When you find the same fossils in rocks far away, you know that the sediments those rocks must have been laid down at the same time.